Life in Every Limb

My Sunday Photo: Autumn Sky

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I took this photo looking down the hill from my front porch.  We live about halfway up the hill.  The original plan for our neighborhood was that the houses would get bigger and bigger going progressing up the hill so there would be ginormous houses at the top where the view is amazing.  However, the neighborhood was going to be built in two phases and the recession happened after the first phase.  The original builder backed out of the project after our house was built.  So our house is the biggest house, and eventually a new builder came in and built much smaller houses all the way up the hill.  I hear that a lot of people in the big house part of the neighborhood were angry about this, feeling that it would damage their property values.  I personally think it’s hilarious.

OneDad3Girls

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My Forever Home

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You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.
– Maya Angelou 

You can’t go home again isn’t just metaphorical for many people.  The first home I ever knew–the married student housing apartments where I lived with my parents until I was four years old–was demolished not long ago to make way for intramural sports fields.  The last home I lived in was burned nearly to the ground, destroying almost everything we owned.

burned down house

At this time of year, hearts turn toward home, and I am no different–but I find myself longing for places that are no longer available.  I was fortunate to live in the same neighborhood for most of my childhood.  My closest cousins and my maternal grandparents lived there too, and my paternal grandmother lived across town.  Holidays followed a predictable, safe pattern:  Thanksgiving lunch at Mima’s and supper at Granny’s, then Christmas morning at Mima’s and Christmas afternoon at Granny’s.  That was the way it was for 22 years, until divorces and deaths intervened.   Until recently, one childhood house remained:  my mother had been living in her mother’s old house.  When she sold it earlier this year, the last link remaining to that childhood stability was gone.

As the oldest in my family of birth and the first one to have a family of my own, providing a home for the holidays has most often fallen to me, and I hope that my children have fond memories of those days even though the places and patterns have shifted over time.  My favorite adult holiday memories took place in the Victorian house where we lived for eight years.  Despite its somewhat decrepit condition, with its large formal spaces it was ideal for entertaining.  It was the house for which we collected not-quite-antique furniture, piece by piece, the one we decorated with portraits of our children and religious icons.  To me it was my dream house, and when we had to move out for financial reasons I was devastated.  No house has really felt like home to me since.

Victorian House

For the two years after that, we were renting a house that never felt comfortable or safe.  Part of that, I think, was because it was not really ours and we weren’t sure how long we would be able to stay there.  When it burned down, destroying everything, it was the completion of the loss that began with our move.

Since that happened four years ago, I feel I have been trying to regain a sense of home.  We are still renting, but we have plans to buy the house we have lived in since just a few weeks after the fire.  I have started gardening again, putting down literal roots.  But I struggle with decorating, acquiring knickknacks, hanging pictures, really committing.

house and garden

Almost everything in the house–right down to the dishes we eat from and the sheets on the beds–was given to us.  We are surrounded by reminders of the love of the people in our various communities every day.

And that’s part of what made me realize that to me, home has come to mean something other than a house.  When I think of home, I think of Knoxville, my hometown, where I have spent all but five years of my life, the place where I was married and where all my babies were born.  Whenever I return from a vacation, my heart feels a little lighter as soon as I cross the Tennessee line.  The road sign that reads Knoxville – 12 miles always lifts my spirits.  And probably the most welcoming sight in the world to me is the Knoxville skyline, with my own parish church at the very front, visible on the interstate as we drive through town.

IC from CP

My roots in this town are deep–my father’s people have lived in this area since the 1700s.  Even though my husband has only lived here 25 years, he has put down roots as well.  I may not know in what house we will be celebrating the holidays five or ten or twenty years from now, but I know the party will be in Knoxville, my forever home.

Home to Me

This post is part of the “Home to Me” blog hop, hosted by Julie Walsh of These Walls. During the two weeks from Friday, November 13 through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers will share about what the concept of “home” means to them. “Home” can been elusive or steady. It can be found in unexpected places. It is sought and cherished and mourned. It is wrapped up in the people we love. As we turn our minds and hearts toward home at the beginning of this holiday season, please visit the following blogs to explore where/what/who is “Home to Me.”

November 13 – Julie @ These Walls

November 14 – Leslie @ Life in Every Limb

November 15 – Ashley @ Narrative Heiress

November 16 – Rita @ Open Window

November 17 – Svenja, guest posting @ These Walls

November 18 – Anna @ The Heart’s Overflow

November 19 – Debbie @ Saints 365

November 20 – Melissa @ Stories My Children Are Tired of Hearing

November 21 – Amanda @ In Earthen Vessels

November 22 – Daja and Kristina @ The Provision Room

November 23 – Emily @ Raising Barnes

November 24 – Annie @ Catholic Wife, Catholic Life

November 25 – Nell @ Whole Parenting Family

November 26 – Geena @ Love the Harringtons

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Book Review and Author Interview: The Order of the Blood by Page Zaplendam

“Sometimes I think, what if I don’t feed

When a vampire’s abilities and defects never fully develop, taking on the head of England’s biggest vampire sect could be a bad idea.

Ever since he was turned, John Grissom, bacteriologist, has worked to find a cure for the disease. A powerful peer of the realm approaches him about research into the immunological properties of vampire blood, but Grissom discovers a far more gruesome scheme at play. He, his newly acquired assistant Henrietta, and the Prussian Van Helsing, a veteran vampire hunter in the employ of the Foreign Service, must seek out the elusive vampire lord before he sets in motion a domino effect leading to Napoleon’s successful arrival on British shores.

I recently was offered the opportunity to read and review Order of the Blood:  The Unofficial Chronicles of John Grissom by Page Zaplendam. (Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the ebook but my opinions are my own.)

Now, y’all know I love to read.  And I have always enjoyed historical romances and fantasy.  This book has both.  Still, I was a little skeptical when I began to read.  After all, there have been a lot of vampire novels written recently.  What more could there be to say?

But John Grissom is not your typical vampire: debonair, bloodthirsty, seductive, and headed straight for hell.  Nor is he a modern vampire: gorgeous, angsty, tortured, all-powerful.  Instead he is a Catholic gentleman of the past (England, 1809), a scientist living with what he believes to be a disease, subsisting on the blood of animals and feverishly researching to find a cure.  Moreover, he still needs his glasses, is not super-strong or super-fast, and has no problem with daylight.

And he isn’t the only unwilling vampire attempting to live a virtuous life–indeed, the opening scene of the novel takes place at a support group meeting for the Afflicted, which will look very familiar to anyone who knows the format of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting! It is there that he first spots Dr. Isherwood and his daughter, Henrietta, who will become his assistant and ally and possibly more than that in the future–I’ve been promised there are sequels on the way!

Besides introducing us to the main characters, including an ancestor of the famous Van Helsing, the novel is full of political intrigue and plotting that Grissom, an unlikely action hero, must attempt to thwart.  Zaplendam knows how to paint a picture of the era–the characters are clearly of their time (while still being relatable) and I loved all the little details such as the use of appropriate slang terms.  You can tell the author did her homework–she didn’t just plop modern characters into an old-fashioned setting.  I also appreciate that Grissom is a moral vampire whose Catholic faith and the state of his soul are important to him

This is a short novel, but every word counts.  A lot happens in this book and I am impressed by Zaplendam’s ability to world-build and create distinct–and likeable–characters with such economy.  I was sorry to see the story end and the first thing I asked the author was if there would be sequels.

I don’t want to spoil the story for you by saying any more.  Instead, I’ll share what I learned from the author herself when I interviewed her after reading the book.

Q: How long have you been writing fiction? Is this your first published work?

A: I have been writing fiction with the intent of becoming an author for at least seven years. It’s been difficult to fit it in when I have so many other time commitments. This is my first published fiction piece, the first of many.

Q: Why have you chosen to use a pen name? 

A: For a variety of reasons, but mainly to protect my family – publishing is so very public – and because I write in multiple genres.  Like other authors, I decided to use a pen name to help with creating and maintaining a specific author identity. Once I publish in a different genre, it will be under a different pen name.

Q: How does your Catholic faith inform your writing?

A: Excellent question. In regard to this book specifically, it always bothered me that in the vampire narrative, there was no exercise of free will. Our faith teaches us that we have free will; we can either cooperate with God’s graces or deny them. But becoming a vampire via the usual method – where one is turned against one’s will – seemed unfair and simplistic. 

Imagine a Catholic man, a hard-working, Mass attending father of a family. Coming home late one night he’s victimized by a vampire – and all of a sudden he’s an evil, murderous vampire? Not only does the individual not will to become a creature of evil, participating in evil, but how many people do we know that are evil for evil’s sake? We are far more complex than that. 

So I wanted to show the struggles that are likely were the vampire narrative actually a possibility. I re-imagined it this way, as a disease, because our faith teaches us that it is an impossibility for anyone, even Satan, to make our moral choices for us. A disease was the most rational explanation for vampirism, in order to explain how an individual could be affected by vampirism without it inhibiting their ability to exercise their free will. 

Ultimately, we must choose the good. Faced with the difficulties of requiring blood to survive, the age old moral question of taking another’s life for the sake of maintaining one’s own life, comes into play. Given the recent revealing videos on Planned Parenthood, I find this question to be especially relevant since it is one of the biggest justifications for abortion (life of the mother).

In the broader sense of how Catholicism informs my writing, I have to say ‘treatment of subject.’ As a Catholic writer, the final outcome of a story must be a moral outcome. Even if the writer is dealing with immoral elements, or temptations to sin, or perhaps even engages in sinful things, or is torn about the immorality of a given situation, the final conclusion, the takeaway as it were, must be reflective of objective morality (which Catholicism has the exclusive right to determine). In that respect, a Catholic writer can never justify premarital sex or divorce in their writing, or write about it in such a way that it would propose an occasion of sin for the reader. At times, it can take delicate handling, more so when using romantic elements. 

Q: What are your literary influences?

A: There are so many, but in particular Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. I don’t know that they have influenced my writing so much as they have influenced me and the things I love (which in turn influence my writing, so I must think there is a correlation there.) One can’t escape modernity though. We are a product of our age. And I really like that we can write things now in ways that would have been considered unacceptable in times past. I can start a sentence with ‘And,’ I can have my characters express what they are really thinking without the imposition of social restraint (as one sees in 19c novels for example). Of course, there is a certain artistry to being able to write within given parameters, no doubt. But I really enjoy being able to write in my own voice, which finds a lot of humor in a realization of the obvious.

Q: Why romance? Why vampires?

A: I was torn about what genre to place this in. Is it a historical? A paranormal? A romance, per se? The romance aspect of it was intended from the outset to be a side story, and I think I accomplished that. What can I say? At heart I am a romantic. I especially love the idea of how complicated life could get for an individual suffering from a disease that might endanger the loved one. There’s a lot of fodder there for conflict and drama, a writer’s dream really. 

And vampires because I haven’t yet come across a vampire narrative that really satisfied me. Vampirism is an extremely old narrative historically, almost medieval, and it was a response to the inability of medieval man to explain certain events. Vampires were among the ‘bogeymen’ of old. As far as folk villains go, a vampire is nearly iconic. As one who really loves folklore and fairy tales, that in itself was enough to intrigue me. 

Q: Vampires are ubiquitous in popular culture.   Is it a fair criticism to say that there’s nothing new to say about them?

A: I’ve often asked myself that same question about fiction as a whole. There are just so many books out there. What new thing could possibly be written? And the truth is, we aren’t writing new things in the sense that we are bringing something new to the table. It’s more like discovering a new facet of the same gem. We are dealing with the same old human nature, but we can arrive at new insights into that nature. That is the artistry of being a writer no matter the genre, no matter the subject matter. And all the more reason for fiction to be written from a Catholic moral perspective. Of anyone, Catholic writers are in the best position to understand the human soul and human nature, because we have the true (Catholic) understanding of it. 

Vampires are ubiquitous, sure, but in so far as a re-imagined vampire narrative can act as a platform for revealing the complexities of what it is to be human, I think there is room for development. 

Q: What about the sexual undertones of vampirism?  (SPOILER) At the same time that John assured Henrietta’s father that nothing happened between them—meaning nothing sexual—I felt that the intimacy of the sharing of blood was akin to the intimacy of a sexual act.  

A: That’s a provocative question (no pun intended), thank you. Part of vampire lore includes the power of the vampire over the victim, his ability to influence his victim and subject him. It is an invasion, not only physically, in the sense that the person is physically subjected against their will, but it is also a psychological invasion. I didn’t want to discount that aspect, but I wanted to be able to explain how it worked to some degree. 

While nothing happens between John and Henrietta that would endanger her physical purity or mental/spiritual innocence, we see a sudden jump in their knowledge of each other. This jump would normally come after greatly increased association with each other (which in turn would typically only occur if they were courting), so it puts an unorthodox (for the time period) sort of intimacy between them that creates tension. Not only do we have a physical attraction there (we are attracted first with our eyes), we also have increased awareness of what makes the other person tick. Evil vampires are going to use this to their advantage. Grissom, as a man of honor, feels like he knows more than he has a right to know.

Q: Some Catholics would opine that to write about vampires is to dabble in the occult.  How would you answer such a criticism? 

A: I think a thing is what it is, only if that is what it is. 

In other words, if something is in se occult, than it can’t be otherwise. If one were to present a Ouija board, something which in se deals with the occult, as possibly not such a bad thing, yes, it would be dabbling in the occult. But I don’t believe vampirism necessarily falls under ‘occult.’. First, because vampires begin as humans. In my book, they retain their humanity. Like I said, the idea that man can lose his free will through no fault of his own is actually against Catholic teaching. The Unofficial Chronicles is a recognition of that by re-imagining vampires as humans with a free will. 

Secondly, would we say that a movie such as the Exorcism of Emily Rose dabbles in the occult? It deals with the demonic, it’s for entertainment. The occult, so far as I understand it, requires a glorification of or at least an impartiality towards the demonic. But treatment of subject. A writer can have a character who is a satanist – as long as that satanism is presented as an evil and that satanist as a sinner. In the Exorcism of Emily Rose the demonic is unquestionably recognized for the evil it is and the possession case is merely the vehicle, the background, to the greater drama of the trial. It is because of that that it is acceptable to Catholics. Juxtapose it against the The Exorcist, which relies on the sensationalizing of a possession case for its entertainment. 

I think those are the major differences between my novel and many of the vampire novels that are out there. In my novel, vampirism is not in se part of the occult, but a disease which does not in se produce a demoniac, and it’s the vehicle by which the greater story is revealed. 

Q: What’s next for John Grissom? 

A: Like the first book, book 2 has mystery, suspense, and bit of romantic drama. We see him using his defects as strengths and discovering new things about himself. I decided to go North into Derbyshire, for several reasons, one among them being that that’s where Pemberley is and I wanted to give a nod to Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite books since I was a teenager. But the thing I am most stoked about is the new paranormal threat Grissom will be dealing with. It’s very exciting. And a shade gruesome, like book 1.

Page Zaplendam is the pen name of a writer of speculative and fantasy fiction. Page does not believe in vampires, or that the world will end in the immediate future. Then again, truth is always stranger than fiction.

To learn more about Page and her writing, check out the links below:

Website: www.pagezaplendam.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/pagezaplendam

And I encourage you to purchase the ebook!

Either here: Buy Order of the Blood (ebook) or Paperback from Amazon

Or here:  Buy Order of the Blood from Smashwords

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The Hardest Part about Being a Woman: There’s No One Answer

The Hardest Part of Being a Woman

Poor Caitlyn Jenner.  How quickly the accolades change to attacks, all because of a few poorly chosen words.

In case you haven’t heard, Jenner was honored last night at the 25th Annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards.  In a Buzzfeed interview, Jenner stated: “The hardest part about being a woman is figuring out what to wear.”

Jenner said a lot of other things too, none of which will be remembered.  Also left out of the discussion will be an important part of the interviewer’s question, the two words “FOR YOU.”

Jenner did not say that fashion was the hardest part of being a woman for every woman.  I doubt it makes the top ten for most of us.  I work at home and my everyday wardrobe is whatever nightgown  I slept in.  I just got back from taking my daughter to work and for that I slipped into a stretchy skirt from Wal-Mart, a Georgetown t-shirt, and the pair of my son’s Crocs that were nearest to the door.  And no bra.  But I can do that because there are no paparazzi lurking in my bushes.  Caitlyn Jenner has to look good all the time or face the consequences on the cover of the National Enquirer the next day.  I could see how that would be very hard.

Caitlyn Jenner will never suffer through a difficult pregnancy, or have to worry about finding quality childcare, or be forced to abandon a cherished career to stay home with kids.  Jenner won’t spend long days with a house full of small children, or be a single mother living on welfare while looking for a minimum wage job, or even put up with monthly cramps and mood swings.  Starting to live as a woman at the age of 65, and as a wealthy and famous woman at that, means Jenner will miss out on a lot of the difficulties experienced by most women.

So let’s cut Jenner a little slack and realize that this is a question that each woman might answer differently, depending on her stage of life and her experience.  I almost hesitate to even answer the question, since I don’t want to imply that I believe being a woman is uniquely difficult, or somehow harder than being a man.  Personally, I think life is hard, no matter your gender.

But as I reflected on the question, I decided that FOR ME, the hardest part of being a woman is living up to societal expectations:  the pressure to be a perfect mother, to seek personal fulfillment through a career, to take care of everyone and everything, and to be thin–but not TOO thin!–while doing it.

Of course, while I won’t presume to speak for them, men face daunting societal pressures as well, and some of those pressures may seem to conflict with one another:  to support a family financially and succeed in a career while spending more time with the kids, to be strong but sensitive, to be a gentleman while also treating women as equals.

How would YOU answer the question?  What is the hardest part of being a woman (or a man, if you happen to be one!) for you?

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Staying Home: Unpacking the Concepts of Privilege, Luxury, and Sacrifice

STAYING HOME_ Luxury, Privilege, Sacrifice

It was always my plan to stay home with my children, not just when they were babies, but always.  But Emily was born when John was just starting law school, so I worked 20 hours a week from the time she was four months old until she was three-and-a-half.  There were a couple of breaks in there–two months between jobs, five months when Jake was first born.  I finally came home for good when John graduated and got his first job as an attorney, when I was about five months pregnant with my third child.

So I’ve never worked full-time outside of the home since having kids–although I did right up until a few days before Emily was born.  And I’ve been at home full-time for a little over 21 years (although I have worked at home for many of those years, more and more as time has gone by).  I have no doubt that this has been the right choice for our family.

But financially, it hasn’t been easy, and that’s why I sometimes question society’s assumptions about stay-at-home mothers (which I will now abbreviate as SAHM).

Some people say that being an SAHM is a privilege, a blessing, even a hobby:

No, Stay-at-Home-Mothers, choosing to create your own little person upon whom you’ll spend all your time and energy is a hobby. It is a time-consuming, sanity-deteriorating, life-altering hobby — a lot like a heroin addiction, but with more Thirty-One bags. Whether you call it a “blessing” or a “privilege,” the fact remains that having someone else foot the bill for a lifestyle that only benefits you and your close family is by no means a “job.”

“I am so blessed. I have a faithful husband, gorgeous and healthy children, a beautiful home, and I am fortunate enough to stay home and enjoy my blessings.”

Others call it a luxury:

[T]he ability to stay home is, indeed, a luxury. Not in the sense of being some “nonessential” merchandise, but in the sense of having a choice.  A Chanel bag may be thought of as a luxury, but really it’s the ability to buy the Chanel bag in the first place — or an iPhone, a TV, a fancy car — without forgoing, say, food or shelter that is the true luxury. The luxury is in having the choice.

There are those who say it’s a job.  They give it titles like CEO of the household or domestic engineer, and even assign an economic value to the services a SAHM provides to her family:

Is parenting, and in particular mothering, a job? I’d say it most certainly is, but not in the same way we think about a career. It’s one that goes unpaid, for sure, but it’s a job nonetheless. After all, when we can’t do it ourselves, we actually pay people to do it for us, whether that’s a babysitter, nanny or daycare.

Other people describe it as a sacrifice women make, trading financial security and career success for the domestic trenches:

Yes – some women are able to stay home because they are just rolling in dough. But I don’t know any of those people. All the stay at home moms I know sacrifice every single day to do what they do.

No matter how you describe it, someone is going to bristle.  For those of us who have endured significant financial insecurity because of staying home, calling it a privilege or a luxury feels insulting.  Luxury implies something unnecessary and who wants to feel unnecessary?  Privilege makes it sound easy when it isn’t.  We lived in a small house and drove one car and fell behind in our bills.  But at the same time I know that there are other mothers who want to stay home and can’t because they would have no house and no car at all, women who are single mothers or whose husbands work full-time minimum wage jobs.

If it’s a job, then we are all working for free and no one takes our choice of career very seriously!  It IS hard work being at home all day long with kids and doing all the thing SAHMs do, but what about all the mothers who work outside the home and then have to come home and do most of those things too, without having had the (dare I say) privilege of being with their babies all day?

And if we call it a job and complain about how hard it is, aren’t we being ungrateful for the very fact that we have kids at all, let alone that we are lucky enough to get to spend all our time with them?

And if we call it a sacrifice, that implies there is a good reason to make that sacrifice, that somehow it is better for kids to have their mother at home with them full time than not.  But that comes across as offensive to some women who could stay home but choose not to make those sacrifices.

Finally, if we assign value to women being home with their kids, then why is it a privilege or a luxury reserved for those whose husbands have a job that can support the family? Why should it require huge financial sacrifices? If it’s good for kids in privileged families, isn’t it just as good for kids in poor families? Why do we demonize women who receive welfare payments in order to stay home with their kids, and applaud those same women if they leave their kids to go work at a minimum wage job?

What do you think?  Is staying home with your children a privilege, a job, a hobby, a sacrifice, none, a combination, or something else?  Should it be a choice that is available to everyone?

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Autumn Gardening

You may have noticed my more regular posting schedule lately, because it’s November and I am once again participating in NaBloPoMo.  That means a post per day.  And it’s hard, VERY hard, for me to find the time.

So today I’m posting a few pictures, and writing a little about my garden.

Camellia Blossom

Camellia Blossom

Today is one of those impossibly beautiful autumn days, sunny and crisp, and because we haven’t yet had a killing frost, my garden is still in bloom!

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The (over)abundance of rain we’ve had over the past few weeks has made digging very easy, so I’ve been able to expand my flowerbed by several feet since the last time I shared pictures here.  I have purchased but not yet added higher-quality dirt and mulch, so you can see the rock-filled clay soil that I am attempting to grow things in!

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I’m in the middle of transplanting things that I put too close together or that are too tall or short for their current locations, setting out mums and pansies, and adding some peonies and irises that were my grandmother’s, removed from her garden because they house was recently sold.

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I may have mentioned before that I am a pretty lazy gardener and I don’t really follow the rules, so we will have to wait for spring to see what comes of all this.  In the meantime, I am having a lot of fun.  Writing and gardening are the two activities that I never have enough time for AND which make me happiest.

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Birthday Girl

Tomorrow Lorelei, our baby, will turn 11.  True to her birth order, she’s very much still the “baby” of the family, although she is surprisingly capable if no one is around to baby her.

Lorelei is homeschooled, and thus somewhat sheltered from a culture that pressures little girls to grow up too soon, and I like it that way.  Many 11-year-olds have already moved on from toys to boys.  Not this girl.

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True, she will be using those stuffed animals to star in the music videos that she films and uploads to her very own YouTube channel, but she also picks at least one to cuddle with every night.   She had names for each one of these picked out before her birthday even arrived.

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Right after her party guests left yesterday (we will be celebrating her actual birthday with dinner at Texas Roadhouse, her request), she went to film a video displaying her birthday gifts.  This is apparently a thing that “Kinz Tubers” (girls who make YouTube videos featuring their Webkinz stuffed toys) do whenever they have a birthday.  They also make videos of themselves unwrapping new toys when they come in the mail, and they work together to make collaborative videos called MEPs.  There is a whole language that comes along with this, and it has been fun to see Lorelei getting involved with her own little online world and teaching herself the many new skills that are involved in becoming part of it.

Being able to use stuffed toys as props in somewhat more grownup pursuits is a neat way for little girls on the edge of adolescence to keep a foot in both worlds.  I love the combination of big girl and little girl, but I hope the little girl part stays with us for awhile longer.

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My Sunday Photo

This photo is special to me for a couple of reasons.  The icon was a Christmas gift from my daughter.  I suppose it’s meant as a Christmas decoration but I love it too much so I keep it out all year.  The candle holder is a new one meant to fit the peacock theme we have going on in our living room.  The prior residents of this house had painted peacocks in various places.  We discovered that peacocks are a Christian symbol of resurrection, and as that was particularly apt (since we moved here after losing everything in a house fire) we decided to go with it.

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OneDad3Girls
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Too Much Stuff: An All-American Problem

TOO MUCH STUFF

Americans have a lot of stuff.  Let’s take a look at some of these statistics excerpted from Joshua Becker’s article in his blog, Becoming Minimalist, shall we?

  • There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).

I have no intention of counting, but I wouldn’t be surprised.  We used to have a really cool book that showed people from various countries standing outside their homes with all their earthly goods.  The contrast between Americans and just about everyone else was staggering.

  • The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years (NPR).

Remember The Brady Bunch? Three boys in one room, three girls in the other?  That wouldn’t cut it nowadays.  The house we are currently renting has an astonishing eight bedrooms (one is used as an office).  They are not big rooms, but everyone has his or her own.

  • And still, 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).

That would be us, despite the aforementioned large home, but ours is just for the old office files.  Isn’t it bizarre, though, that we as a country own so much stuff that we pay extra rent to house things we don’t use?  Does this make financial sense?

  • 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle. (U.S. Department of Energy).

Us again.  Besides the usual garage stuff, ours has more office files, and a lot of furniture we are hoping to offload to our big kids as they move out.  And did you know that with houses of a certain size, it’s hard to sell them unless they have a THREE-car garage?

  • 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally (UCLA).

As my regular readers will recall, in 2011 our house burned down, leaving our kids with very few toys.  I am astonished at how quickly that changed.

  • The average American woman owns 30 outfits—one for every day of the month. In 1930, that figure was nine (Forbes).

I’m pretty sure I am below average here, but only because after all my clothes burned up I consciously decided to only buy what I absolutely needed and to ruthlessly purge things as soon as they did not fit or were not being worn.

That’s actually better than I would have predicted.

  • But our homes have more television sets than people. And those television sets are turned on for more than a third of the day—eight hours, 14 minutes (USA Today).

We currently have three working televisions for five people in residence.  And they are not turned as long as that, but we won’t discuss the computers.

  • Currently, the 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe account for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent (Worldwatch Institute).

That’s just sick, y’all.

  • Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods—in other words, items they do not need (The Wall Street Journal).

In the years since I lost everything, I have resisted cluttering my life and my home up with more stuff.  The rest of my family has not resisted.  Despite regular trips to Goodwill, our house is still overflowing with unnecessary and redundant items.  You would think the stuff breeds secretly after we are all asleep.

Today I saw this book, which I have been hearing a lot about:

I’m wondering if this would help me get a handle on the situation around here.  As I type, Lorelei is making (while whining about it) multiple trips upstairs carrying junk of all description which she has left where it does not belong.  The irony? She is cleaning up to prepare for her birthday party, at which she will be receiving MORE STUFF.

nablopomo

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